Opening Bell: Vestager reassures Ireland, businesses not dealing with crime, cashless society has us overspending

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Margrethe Vestager has moved to reassure Ireland that the European Commission has "no specific concern" with the Irish tax regime and is not planning to harmonise corporate tax systems.

The competition commissioner, who was behind the finding that Apple must pay €13bn in back taxes to the country, was speaking in Washington DC as her three-day trip to the US got underway.

She said:

"We don't have a specific concern about Ireland.

"We do very specific case work. If there are reasons for concern, well then we may open investigations. But there can be obvious reasons why you want to place your business in Ireland... [for example it has] an attractive corporate tax rate of 12.5%."

Vestager was also eager to dismiss concerns that  she was ready to launch a number of new cases.

"We are very, very thorough," she stated. "We don't just open a case in the spur of the moment. Because we need to write an opening decision where we state our concerns, and in order to do that of course we have been asking questions beforehand."

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New research suggests the shift to a cashless society is causing consumers to overspend.

According to credit check firm ClearScore, more than half of us (59%) feel that not having to hand over physical cash at the till has led to us spending more.

Some 72% of those surveyed in Britain said that digital payment methods such as Apple Pay and contactless credit cards have encouraged them to make more impulse purchases.

Two out of five (40%) shoppers admitted that the ease of digital payment methods has caused them to lose track of their spending, with almost one quarter (24%) having missed a bill and 15% having defaulted on a loan, damaging their credit score as a result.

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Crime is costing Irish businesses an annual average of over €55,000 due to poor security measures leaving them exposed.

Nearly 25% of firms have been robbed by their own staff over the past three years with businesses failing to take the necessary precautions to prevent internal crime, the Irish Examiner reports.

One fifth of firms do not oversee employee behaviour at all, while a quarter don't monitor their premises.

The research from security firm Netwatch Group adds to the stark picture painted by the Irish Small and Medium Sized Enterprises Association (ISME) of how crime is hurting business earlier this year.

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Irish middle and higher income workers are paying more personal tax than those in Britain, Spain, Sweden, the US and Switzerland, as small rises in wages lead to big increases in tax bills. 

A new report from the Irish Tax Institute also reveals that they are paying more than they did before the economic crash, with the 'squeezed middle' hit with hikes in the last nine budgets in a row.

Workers here earning €55,000 a year are now paying an average €800 more than our UK neighbours.

The 50-page report claims that it is income tax, rather than the USC, that is putting pressure on these families.